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Studly bullpen work keys Pirates’ 5-2 win in rubber game

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MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Cincinnati Reds David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

A stellar effort from the unlikeliest source — their bullpen — picked Jameson Taillon up after an early exit and the Pirates obtained the unobtainable: they won a series from the Cincinnati Reds.

Taillon gave new meaning to the term “labored” as he gave up five hits and four walks, and threw 108 pitches, in just four-plus innings. Somehow, though, that led to only two runs, and only one of those earned.

The Reds had runners in every inning against Taillon, with the big threats coming in the second, third and fifth. In the second a double and a wild pickoff throw by Elias Diaz led to a run on a sacrifice fly. In the third, the Reds loaded the bases with nobody out and their 4-5-6 hitters up, but Taillon hung in for a popup, strikeout and fly out to strand them all. When the first two runners reached in the fifth, Clint Hurdle lifted Taillon for A.J. Schugel. One eventually scored on a wild pitch and a ground out.

The Pirates meanwhile didn’t exactly hammer Tyler Mahle, who was making his major league debut, but they did run up his pitch count and reach him for three runs. The Bucs took a 2-1 lead in the fourth when John Jaso bounced a grounder inside first with runners at first and second. Both were able to score while Scott Schebler circled the globe tracking the ball down. They added a third run the next inning when an Andrew McCutchen single up the middle plated Starling Marte, who had singled. Marte had reached second on a bunt by Max Moroff, who’d replaced Adam Frazier after the latter left with . . . ugh . . . hamstring discomfort.

And that’s the way it stood as the Pirates’ bullpen shut down the Reds’ powerful lineup. Schugel threw two hitless, shutout innings in all (although he did let one of Taillon’s runners score) and Daniel Hudson added one. Juan Nicasio then worked a perfect eighth.

Three mediocre-to-bad Reds relievers were just as effective against the Pirates after Mahle left. They were helped by the Pirates wasting a second-and-third, no-out chance in the eighth. Finally, though, the Bucs got to the Reds’ best reliever, Raisel Iglesias, for two insurance runs in the ninth. A single by Diaz and pinch-hit double by David Freese set up a two-run single by Marte, who had three hits in the game.

The added runs looked big after the Reds loaded the bases with two out against The Nightmare in the ninth. That came on a single and a walk, sandwiched around the second error of the game by Sean Rodriguez, who was playing short. (Rodriguez partially atoned with an acrobatic catch on a popup out in left field in the eighth.) Rivero, though, got Adam Duvall on an easy grounder to end it.

The win left the Pirates with a 4-9 record against the Reds and gave them their first series win in four tries. They now head to Chicago to take on a team that they seem to find much less intimidating.